Swimmers conquer the island
STANDING on Mooloolaba beach watching as more than 60 swimmers splashed to shore, spectators could be forgiven for thinking it was the perfect day for a swim from Mudjimba.
With almost no swell and glassy water as far as the eye could see, the conditions looked inviting.
But even the toughest of those taking part in the Island Charity Swim, starting at Mudjimba and tracking around Old Woman Island before continuing on to Mooloolaba, told a story that couldn’t be seen from shore.
Ocean swimmer Duane Cannell said conditions were not what they had seemed when he dived into the water at Mudjimba Beach for the longest swim event he had ever done, and his first crack at the event in support of Nambour and Currimundi special schools.
“As soon as you turned around the island and headed for Mooloolaba it was very choppy,” Duane said.
“The winds changed. From the beach it was quite deceiving. Certainly, when you get out there in the open water it was a totally different story.”
Despite experiencing cramps for the first 3–4km, Duane pushed on and finished the gruelling 11km distance in just over two hours.
“I was thinking for the last 3km or 4km ‘I can’t wait to see that sand’,” he said.
“I was looking for that sand and when I saw that sand I thought ‘only a couple of hundred more metres to go’.”
Waiting on the beach to greet Duane, and every swimmer who emerged from the water, Joce Cullpitt had hugs and the highest praise for the ordinary people who took on the daunting swim and raised huge sums of money to be able to take part.
“I admire them immensely for doing what they do,” she said.
“We have some people who are coming up to having done it for 14 years.
“We have people like the Stunned Mullets who have some of our oldest swimmers – one must be in his 80s.”
They were joined by elite athletes like Casey Munro (who was first on the beach in 1:55) and Nick D’Arcy, swimmers training to cross the English Channel, and staff members and parents from Nambour and Currimundi Special Schools.
The one thing they all had in common was the fire to take on the epic challenge, which Ms Cullpitt said replicated the challenges her daughter, and other children with disabilities faced every day. That challenge was tough, and it was painful, but minutes after emerging from the water, Duane said he would probably do it again next year.
This year’s event was co-ordinated by Atlas Multisports for the first time, with the date shift forward to May from August seeing participant numbers grow by 50% on last year.
Atlas’s Jason Crowther said he was looking forward to growing the swim, while continuing to maintain the community atmosphere and fundraising efforts for the local special schools.
Miles Tollan had special reason to swim on Saturday, with is son Oscar attending Currimundi Special School. The conditions would have been a pleasure compared to when he swam the English Channel back in 2014, which he completed in 15h 20min.
Anna Strachan and Brittany Parker.
Casey Munro is welcomed by Kirsty Higginson as first swimmer home.